UT-Austin student wins 10,000 vaccine incentive prize, mistakes phone call for spam

Kevin Vu, News Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the September 14 flipbook. 

On her way home for Labor Day weekend, mathematics freshman Maya Niyogi answered a call from an unknown number only to hear she won $10,000 from the UT vaccine incentive program. 

“I generally do not pick up unknown numbers unless they leave a voicemail, so I ignored it,” Niyogi said. “Then I was in the car with my dad, and I saw that the same number had called me again … so I picked it up … and I go, ‘Hello,’ and they’re like, ‘Hi, Maya, this is so and so from the UT vaccine program and I was like ‘Ah fuck I got COVID-19.”

Instead, Niyogi was the first winner of the UT vaccine incentive program.

The University completed its first week of prize drawings for the vaccine incentive program on Sept. 3. The incentive program aims to increase vaccination rates among the community, help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and reward students, staff and faculty who received the vaccine, said Susan Hochman, University Health Services associate director for assessment, communications, and health information technology.

Niyogi said she had low hopes of winning the prize when she entered the drawing due to the sheer size of the University.

“I was easily going up against thousands of students, so the chance of me winning (was) practically zero,” Niyogi said. 

Niyogi said she is excited to see what the future holds with the money she received. 

She plans to utilize her prize money to further her academic opportunities by possibly studying abroad for a semester.

Kathleen Harrison, assistant director of communications for the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, said in an email the prizes in the incentive program won’t impact a student’s financial aid since the University is using institutional Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds to supplement the gift-funded prizes.

Hochman said the University will continue to give away cash prizes, but other prizes will vary week to week. Drawings will take place every Friday at noon between Aug. 26 to Oct. 8, she said.